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Rectify Ep. 2.06-2.07 “Mazel Tov”/”Weird As You” push the show’s scope wider and wider

Rectify Ep. 2.06-2.07 “Mazel Tov”/”Weird As You” push the show’s scope wider and wider

rectify 2.8

Rectify Season 2, Episodes 7 & 8 “Mazel Tov”/”Weird As You”
Written by Chad Feehan (“Mazel Tov”) and Coleman Herbert (“Weird As You”)
Directed by Jim McKay (“Mazel Tov”) and Sanaa Hanri (“Weird As You”)
Airs Thursdays at 10pm ET on Sundance

 

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Part of Rectify‘s appeal in its short first season was its intense focus, be it on a specific character, idea, or even just a singular image. It obviously wasn’t the show’s only strength, but it’s extreme attention to character over plot (a list of characters that included Paulie, Georgia) allowed it to dig deep – a level-headed exploration of faith, the legal system, and the nature of existence rarely found in any form of media.

Season two of Rectify has been quite different: with the scope of the show pulled back in every way, there isn’t as much to draw from and explore. Right down to the way it’s shot: while much of the show’s visual language remains layered and beautiful, season two has been a lot more direct with its imagery, throwing shadows every which way as if to remind us how ambiguous the show wants to remain, even as it digs further into the questions “who killed Hannah?” and “Who is Daniel Holden?”. There are still plenty of moments where the show’s visuals continue to amaze – Amantha and Jon’s roller-skating scene in “Mazel Tov”, George’s dingy apartment in “Weird As You” – but like the rest of the show, these individual moments aren’t creating quite the same cohesive whole that season one was able to do.

This isn’t to say Rectify is any worse of a show: it’s just a very different show as the show’s lens slowly pulls further and further back. In both “Mazel Tov” and “Weird As You”, Rectify and its writers continue to hammer out the show’s new rhythm, shortening the show’s reflective pauses and interlacing multiple sequences in a more traditional dramatic manner. In season one, Trey and Daniel’s substance-fueled trip down south may have taken up an entire episode; in season two, it’s broken up with other sequences – and as fantastic as they may be (Stoned Amantha’s adventures being chief among them, particularly her visit to the tire shop), there isn’t the same harmony between the show’s moving parts that made season one such a wonderful, contemplative journey.

At times, some of these changes have brought wonderful results: no character has benefited more from the season two transition than Teddy Jr., whose become a major focus of the show and it’s subtle exploration of change and forgiveness (two big themes that coincide nicely with season one’s ideas about rebirth and salvation). But at the same time, it’s reduced Tawney’s character a bit: in the show’s quest to paint everything in shades of grey (something it balances better than any other show I’ve seen since Deadwood), it’s made her a little harder to read. Is she really warming up to starting a family with Teddy, or is she just in shock of the “divine” turn her life has taken (after all, Teddy Jr. does pull the “miracle” card on her)? With characters like Trey, this ambiguity works just fine – with others, it doesn’t quite add the touch of nuance one might expect (the laid-back waitress who has slept with the senator and Daniel is another, but much more minor, example of this).

And there are plenty of interesting things happening on the fringes – characters like Jon and Trey have never been more interesting, characters who have respectively moved farther and closer to the show’s main “plot” (if you consider the Hannah Dean murder a true plot) to become more fully-rounded people. “Mazel Tov” does the former with Jon defending Amantha and processing the legal system he’s a part of, and “Weird As You” puts Trey into direct contact with Daniel for the first time, our first real window into Daniel’s past, and bits of pieces of the person he might’ve been at one point in his life. Both also work well in conjunction with characters in the Holden family they spend time with in the episodes, giving us some time with Amantha letting her hair down (or trying to, at least) and Daniel starting to revisit the one night of his life he’s never been able (or never allowed himself) to remember: they’re examples of when the show’s new stylistic choices and story construction can combine and show off the show’s new creative direction this season, guiding the audience’s hand into a new form of storytelling without losing the foundation established in the show’s breathtaking first season.

In other words, it’s been a bit of a bumpy road for Rectify this season: bumps that don’t necessarily designate any dip in quality, just growth spurts from a show trying to grow out of its extremely insular shell into a more freeing style of storytelling. Sure, there are moments and characters (Lezlie) that don’t work as well as some in the first season (W. Earl Brown’s season one cameo > Lezlie), but these are but small scratches on the still-beautiful surface of Rectify.

— Randy

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